A MOE mother who drank litres of alcohol a day got her five-year-old son so drunk he could barely speak or stand up, a court heard.
The boy was taken to hospital by ambulance with a blood alcohol content of .09 after she gave him four or five shots of home brew which was later found to be 44 per cent ethanol.
Kylie Eastwood told police she “just wanted to have a drink with her son because he likes his alcohol”, the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court at Morwell was told.
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Eastwood, 33, was spared jail despite breaching two previous suspended sentences and a call by police for her to be jailed.
Magistrate Clive Alsop gave her a five-month prison sentence, wholly suspended for two years, and told her she was on her last chance.
The court was told that when Eastwood gave her son grappa in July, 2008, she was already on a suspended sentence after being convicted five months earlier of leaving her three children under 10 home alone for several hours while she went drinking with a friend.
She had also breached a suspended sentence imposed in 2005 for refusing a breath test and driving while disqualified.
Eastwood, who has a five-month-old daughter, pleaded guilty to reckless conduct endangering serious injury, which carries a maximum of five years’ jail, and failing to protect a child from harm, which has a maximum of 12 months.
Mr Alsop warned her of the consequences if she returned to court in future.
“You know now, because you’ve had a lot of practice, what a suspended sentence means,” he told Eastwood.
“I don’t have to tell you what’s going to happen if you come back at some stage in the future having done anything which would adversely affect the welfare of your children”.
Mr Also said several changes in Eastwood’s life, but principally her abstinence since last September, amounted to exceptional circumstances that warranted a suspended sentence.
There had been an enormous change in her previously massive alcohol consumption, she had strong supports in place and had demonstrated in recent months the ability to keep her alcohol problem under control.
He said he also had to take into account the impact on her children if she was jailed.
Mr Alsop took the opportunity to accuse politicians of interfering in the business of the courts.
He said Victorian politicians were “apparently gearing up to do certain things towards the end of the year”, which could include the removal of suspended sentences.
He said it would be “a gross invasion of judicial independence” if the law allowing judges and magistrates to impose suspended sentences was changed.
Police prosecutor Dale Henry had urged the magistrate to impose an immediate sentence of 12-18 months’ imprisonment and said a minimum non-parole period of six months to serve would be appropriate.
Sen-Constable Henry said suspended sentences were meant to be a last chance for an offender to lead a law-abiding life, but Eastwood had “had her two last chances”.
“Denunciation, as a specific deterrent, should take precedence over rehabilitation in this case,” he told Mr Alsop.
“The defendant needs to be sent a message that the court will not tolerate repeated drunken, reckless behaviour that put young children at risk of harm.
“The community must be sent a message that child abuse is not tolerated in any way, shape or form”.
Sen-Constable Henry said making exceptional progress in changing a lifestyle was not an exceptional circumstance in relation to sentencing.
Defence barrister John Verhoeven said it would be unjust to reinstate Eastwood’s previous suspended sentence because exceptional circumstances had arisen since it was imposed.
Mr Verhoeven said Eastwood had consumed alcohol only once in the 13 months since discovering she was pregnant and was “clearly in the process of overcoming what was a chronic alcohol situation”.
He said there was no denying the facts of the case were “horrific, absolutely horrendous” and she had a shocking history in relation to alcohol and caring for children.
But she was now receiving counselling and support at a women’s refuge and had done a terrific job of addressing her problems.
He told the court Eastwood, who was now living west of Melbourne, was looking after her youngest child, a five-month-old daughter from a relationship which had now ended with a 70-year-old man.
A prosecution summary read to the court before the case was adjourned last October said Eastwood’s five-year-old son was having difficulty walking and speaking when ambulance officers were called to her home in Moe by the children’s father.
Police who were called said Eastwood was having trouble walking and her speech was slurred. Her son was unable to speak to police and “kept making grunting noises”.